Mission: This Tourist Trap Tore Babies Away From Their Mothers—Take Action

Update (September 14, 2023): Acting on evidence from our undercover investigation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cited Bear Country U.S.A. in South Dakota for multiple violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. According to the USDA report, a representative of this callous roadside zoo admitted to inspectors that the facility had used fireworks to separate mother bears from their cubs and that staff “had been recorded suggesting handling the bear cubs in an aggressive and inappropriate manner, such as ‘holding their muzzles,’ ‘pinching their noses,’ and ‘kicking or pushing them away.’” The inspectors emphasized that all these practices “can cause trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort” to the bears involved—and Bear Country U.S.A.’s representative claimed that these abusive methods will no longer be used. Based on our investigation’s evidence, USDA officials also cited the roadside zoo for allowing lynx to escape their enclosures twice in little more than a month. Join us in urging this tourist trap to end its cruel breeding program and send the animals to reputable facilities before more cubs face such horrific trauma.

Originally posted on August 29, 2023:

Bear Country U.S.A., a roadside zoo in South Dakota, is another shady business that’s profiting from animals’ suffering.

What’s Going On?

While working undercover at Bear Country U.S.A., a PETA investigator learned that the roadside zoo’s workers violently tore bear cubs and wolf pups away from their mothers, instructed staff to kick bear cubs, scared them with exploding bottle rockets, and denied aging animals timely veterinary care. 💔

Watch to learn why a stop at this roadside tourist attraction supports a lifetime of misery for animals. 😟

Workers Displayed Disrespect for and Neglected Animals

Workers at Bear Country U.S.A. continuously displayed a total lack of empathy and respect for the interests, needs, and feelings of the animals in their “care.” These examples show why roadside zoos ain’t it:

  • Staff explained how they traumatized mother bears by jamming a “huge” fiberglass pole and tossing exploding bottle rockets into the dens to scare them out and then steal their newborns, solely to put them on display.
  • Workers ran chainsaws without the chain in order to drown out the sounds of the newborn bears’ wailing for their mothers as workers shuffled the cubs to a white van.
  • Workers kept cubs in cardboard boxes for weeks. Multiple cubs were reluctant to eat and cried, bit, scratched, and otherwise struggled when they were held, out of apparent frustration or distress. A senior worker said she hoped the cubs would not “turn into dicks.”
  • Locals give ailing horses to Bear Country U.S.A., and staff killed and butchered horses and fed their remains to animals. PETA’s investigator saw a worker shoot one horse three times.

But that’s not all. Let’s get into it:

Mothers and Their Babies Were Traumatized

A mother’s worst nightmare is for her babies to be taken away from her, but that’s exactly what many mothers endure at Bear Country U.S.A., where they’re exploited as baby-making machines for profit. Infants were ripped away from their nurturing mothers when they’re only 1 to 2 months old to be put on display.

Terrified 4-week-old wolf puppies were huddled together and trembling after a worker abducted them from their mothers. He admitted to throwing firecrackers into the den to scare the protective mothers away. 😨

PETA-owned image of bear cubs in box from https://investigations.peta.org/bear-country-usa/

In nature, black bear cubs spend nearly two years by their mother’s side, learning foraging skills from her, playing with their siblings, and exploring the alpine habitats and forests they call home. The 11 bear cubs born this winter at Bear Country U.S.A. were torn away from their mothers before they were weaned, at no more than 8 weeks old—a crucial time in their development, when what they needed most was their mothers’ comfort and protection.

Animals Were Kicked and Cussed Out

Similar to human children, bear cubs naturally become more rambunctious and energetic as they get older. A supervisor instructed PETA’s investigator to “kick them down” and to “pinch their nose as hard as you f–king can” if they bit. When humans kick or pinch other humans, we call it abuse. What makes doing these things to other animals who also feel pain and fear any different? Spoiler alert: It’s not any different. But at Bear Country U.S.A., abuse is business as usual.

PETA-owned image of a woman kicking a bear cub

A worker called a pine marten named Pablo an “asshole” after he “bit the shit out of” her and “tore the hell out of” her arm. She said animal bites are “something you … get used to.” She referred to Bella, a red fox, as a “bitch” when she bit the worker’s shoe.

Aging Animals Disregarded and Denied Timely Veterinary Care

Animals in deteriorating health were denied adequate veterinary care. Mama—a thin, hunched, 17-year-old red fox—was missing a lot of fur. A supervisor and a worker repeatedly said she was “pulling her hair out” and “doing it to herself” but only tried to treat Mama for possible mites and said, “She’s probably going to be dying soon.” Staff suspected she had arthritis but hadn’t provided her with any pain relief.

PETA-owned image of a fox in grass

The supervisor finally took Mama to a veterinarian nearly 11 weeks after PETA’s investigator first pointed out her obvious suffering. She was euthanized and found to have widespread cancer and a bacterial skin infection.

Other aging animals at Bear Country U.S.A. were denied adequate care. Even though the supervisor said, “All of the bears in the drive-through are super-old” and “could die any minute,” the animals were not medicated for arthritis or other age-related debilities.

What Can You Do to Help?

No animal deserves to be treated like this. PETA is calling on law-enforcement and regulatory agencies to investigate apparent animal neglect, animal welfare, and worker safety violations at Bear Country U.S.A.

Please join us in asking this tourist trap to end its cruel breeding program and send the animals to reputable facilities. These animals are depending on us to demand that they get a chance at a better life. ❤️

1. Draft an email politely urging Bear Country U.S.A. to send the animals to reputable facilities. You can use the same message below to get started, but remember that personalized messages work best.

I was horrified to learn that your workers scared mother bears and wolves from their dens with fireworks, stole their newborns, and then put them on display. The trauma that both the mothers and babies experience is almost unimaginable. Please, will you end this torment?

I also learned that your staff kicked bear cubs and denied aging animals appropriate veterinary care, as if their suffering doesn’t matter. These animals deserve better. Please send them to reputable facilities where they could get the care they desperately need.

Please do the right thing for animals. Thank you for your consideration.

2. Send your email to:

Mike Casey

Owner and Operator, Bear Country U.S.A.

[email protected]

3. Take a screenshot of your email, log in to your peta2 account, and submit it for 15 peta2 points in our Rewards Program. (Heads-up: You’ll only be awarded points for taking this action once.)

Text peta2 to 30933 for ways to help animals, tips on compassionate living, and more!

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